Fact-checkers at CNN and The Washington Post were quick to explain and contextualize President Biden’s statement Tuesday night that there was no coronavirus vaccine when he took office.
“It’s one thing to have the vaccine, which we didn’t have when we came into office, but a vaccinator,” Biden said at CNN’s town hall on Tuesday. “How do you get the vaccine into someone’s arm?”
Former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany shared the short clip, which went viral, and asked: “How does Joe get away with this?” Indeed, the FDA approved vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer for emergency use weeks before Biden took office and begun distributing them. After a rocky rollout, the country was at 1 million vaccinations per day when Biden became president.
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However, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler and CNN’s Daniel Dale, who vigourously fact-checked former President Donald Trump, wrote Biden had simply gaffed, since he mentioned earlier in the same town hall there had been “only” 50 million vaccine doses when he took office.
“It was a verbal stumble, a typical Biden gaffe,” Kessler tweeted, saying ex-Trump officials like McEnany should “cool the outrage meter” given their former boss’s dishonesty.
Dale tweeted he “clearly wasn’t trying to claim the vaccine did not exist at all under Trump.”
Kessler added it could have been a result of Biden’s stutter, which he has struggled with since his youth.
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“I know it’s fun to snip a clip and act outraged on social media. But what’s more telling is if a politician over and over says the same falsehood, day after day, no matter how often he or she has been fact-checked. No going to mention any names, of course,” he added.
But while Biden’s remark was dismissed as a “gaffe,” it follows Vice President Kamala Harris falsely claiming over the weekend that the administration was “starting from scratch” on its vaccine rollout. CNN was criticized last month after reporting the same from Biden sources, even though it was refuted at the time by White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
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Kessler himself gave Harris’s claim “Two Pinocchios” on Wednesday.
“[The Biden administration] has added a federal component and pushed for funding for states … Biden administration officials may be proud of what they have accomplished, but they shouldn’t suggest that nothing was in place when they walked in the door,” he wrote.